Summary: The expectation that a new digital workplace will simply remove all known obstacles and automate all cumbersome things of an information worker is wrong. In too many instances I have stumbled across users and managers that said “But then I still have to look for stuff – I just want it there right in front of me”. Yes, indeed. You stay in charge. All a digital workplace can provide is the means to make life and work easier. Working itself will stay with the people. I believe we have to manage expectations accordingly.
Inspired by the book “Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager” (Ken Blanchard, Susan Fowler, Laurence Hawkings, 2005) I’ve decided to elaborate a little bit on one of the most important pieces of change in the context of the future of information and knowledge work: Expectations Management. I got the inspiration from the general approach of the book to put people in the right place and put responsibility and initiative in their hands. For me this is the first step to a successful transformation of the digital workplace.
YOU! are in charge of driving automation of information retrieval
“Enterprise Search” is still in the top list of corporate business IT initiatives. “We just can’t find our stuff” is probably the key complaint when it comes to information, data or knowledge management. Rest assured: a blue, yellow or whatever color search application server won’t make much of a difference.
Rubbish in (by YOU!), rubbish out (for the poor others).
I don’t know how many times I have commented the need for “Enterprise Search” with that. As long as users don’t classify information others won’t be able to find it in a context beyond semantic. The content of a document however must not necessarily be the best indicator where or when to use it. To make it really valuable the conversation around that piece of data or additional information on background, usage or ownership is essential in most cases.
Well…if YOU! don’t want to tag the document, then at least tag yourself, the workspace you work in and throw in a short comment on why you have created, modified or just stored that piece of work. So that just by knowing enough about you and your context the document can be put in the right place – meaning: in front of the right people and next to information and data that goes well with it.
YOU! are in charge of capturing essentials and value of the new “corporate conversation”
“There is no information overload, just filter failure” (Clay Shirkey) is one side of the coin. The flip side is: YOU! have to use the filters. Like in: using them yourself by thinking things like…
- what am I looking for? specifically or “more or less”…
- is what I am seeing important to me or not?
- what would be the easiest channel/source to what I am looking for?
Yes, one of the value propositions is that relevant information will be delivered to the door step of employees. Nevertheless: digital data (stupid zeros and ones) cannot look inside your brain to figure out “right now or is tomorrow maybe better?”. So a digital workplace will strengthen all efforts to filter out noise and “stuff” and reduce the overload to the (potentially) most relevant pieces that could add value to one’s day.
To distinguish important from urgent and core essential process stuff from “nice to know maybe later” material is down to YOU!.
YOU! need leadership in the D2 stage? Then go and ask for it!
“Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager” is referring to four stages of motivation/competence that employees can be in. Corresponding to those stages the authors suggest leadership/management styles to help employees to move to the next stage. Here’s the basic illustration from that book:
If you ask me the leadership style that is required in today’s transformation process from a pure top down and hierarchical to a more knowledge and network driven organization is S2. Existing employees (in particular the ones that have been part of the workforce for a while already) might feel challenged with the new level of responsibility they suddenly carry. If one comes out of a task and process managed work culture the move into an objective managed environment requires a lot of help.
We may acknowledge that and preach it to the management. And managers have to transform their role from watching each single step to making sure that the orchestra plays well together and is delivering the symphony spot on.
Nevertheless employees have to expose their challenge with the new ways of working and seek support by either their managers (now coaches) or other employees. Because the book also states that being a leader does not necessarily have to be connected with organizational power. Leaders can be the ones that are ahead of others and that are capable to support others to walk the same path.
If YOU! don’t know what to do, go ask for help!
Oh…and if there is nobody around willing to help you, you might want to think about the question if your trying to deliver your value in the right place… (like in: find a better job!).
My apology to YOU!
I apologize to anyone who thinks I am just ranting here. All I am trying to say here is
- Employees have to understand that they have to start their brains
- Employees have to either show interest or simply find motivation for that somewhere else
- Employees have to take action and actively use the new opportunities to either contribute or utilize the contributions of others
- Managers have to be role models – today more than ever. If a manager is convinced that there aren’t enough minutes in the day to make information findable, why would anyone feel obliged to add that little piece of work to the day?
Expect the following: The digital workplace is there to support. It is there to grow, become more useful and helpful with every single contribution. It is there to become more and more relevant and knowledgeable about its users and their “intentions”. It’s like a kid. It has to be born, grow and then become a genius.
Don’t expect the digital workplace to be “rolled out” and solve all challenges we have been confronted with over the past years through its pure existence.
Thanks for listening…